September 19, 2017

Let's Go Geography: A World Geography Course for Elementary Grades {Curriculum Review}

I have always enjoyed studying geography and it is one of the classes I really enjoy teaching in our homeschool. There are many different programs out there for teaching geography, but most focus on just generic things relating to continents, oceans, rivers, and reading maps without a deeper look into the countries and cultures within the continents. This is especially true for the early elementary grades. We recently had the opportunity to review a world geography course with online and offline components called Let's Go Geography. Would this course teach geography more in the style I desire? Join me today as I share our review of this elementary geography course to find out more of what Let's Go Geography is all about!

About Let's Go Geography

Let's Go Geography is a program designed to teach geography to the younger ages by exploring the world continent by continent, country by country. Using videos and hands on activities to teach a lesson over books as the primary resource makes the program more appealing to the young learners and ideal for the age K-4th grade the program is geared for. There are nearly 30 countries taught withing a 36 week school year in weekly lessons. Each lesson is about an hour per week--perfect for the bite sized learning activities elementary kids enjoy the most.

September 18, 2017

Love Bears All Things by Beth Wiseman {Book Review}

I have been exploring more Amish fiction than I have ever before, thanks to the many books coming into my hands through different review programs like The Fiction Guild. One of the books that I recently read was Love Bears All Things by Beth Wiseman. I started it knowing that it was the 2nd book in a series, and I hoped that not reading book 1 first would mess me up.

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

About the Book

Love Bears All Things is the second book in the Amish Secrets Novels by Beth Wiseman. This novel continues the life of Charlotte Dolinsky introduced in book one, My Brother's Keeper. This book takes place several months after the conclusion of book one. There are four primary characters in this book: Charlotte Dolinsky, Jacob King, Daniel Byler, and Annie Byler. Charlotte is a 28 year old English woman who just got dumped by her boyfriend. Still trying to process the rejection and grow in her fledgling faith, she suddenly gets a phone call from her Amish friend Hannah King that Hannah's brother Jacob has run away from home in Lancaster, PA. Charlotte promises to do what she can to help Hannah--but is still shocked when Jacob shows up on her doorstep in Houston. He's decided to explore what it means to be English even though it means living his fiance Annie Byler behind in despair. But he doesn't realize that Charlotte's life has fallen apart and is getting evicted from her home--yet she does her best to encourage him to come home. She finally decides she needs a new start herself, and heads up to Lancaster to try to sell the house her recently departed brother left her. Jacob doesn't come with her though--which puts animosity between Charlotte and Jacob's fiance Annie who is SURE Charlotte was encouraging him to stay. 

The book's plot has a main focus on Charlotte and how she deals with her past and feeling of brokeness--while trying to decide what she's going to do with her life. Ironically, she finds friendship in Daniel Byler, Annie's older brother. But he's Amish and she isn't, so she knows it won't work between them romantically no matter how wonderful it would be. Together she and Daniel work to help Jacob and Annie get back together, all the while she tries to understand the power of redemption and learn what it means to have God as your Father who won't let you down. 

My Thoughts on the Book

I think that certain aspects of Love Bears All Things would have been easier to understand had I read book one in the series. So much was referenced to Charlotte's previous time in Lancaster County, that I had to just piece together the information. Was it 100% necessary to read the first book? No, I don't believe so. I think this book gives the reader enough to understand. 

I think the book does a good job of showing how we are all imperfect in our lives, no matter what we think. The emotional ups and downs of Charlotte are very familiar I'm sure to those in similar situations of abuse, rejection, and trauma. I think the author handled it very well.

The book covers out of wedlock pregnancy, drug addictions, depression, and more--not something you think you would find in any old Amish story. The author keeps her characters real and I appreciate that. There isn't a red ribbon to tie everything up into happily ever after when it is done either. 

Love Bears All Things earns 4★
All in all, I think this book was interesting and it does make me want to go back and read book number one now. I would probably pick up book #3 Home All Along to see what happens next in this story.

by Beth Wiseman

Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich {Book Review}

Imagine...The Great Flood by Matt Koceich {a review}
Because I myself enjoy Christian Fiction, I have been curious to discover if there was anything in Christian Fiction that my boys (Ages 7 and 11) would enjoy. Enter Barbour Publishing and a new book Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich, geared for children ages 8 to 12. I hoped that we would be able to discover an exciting new series as we reviewed this book as a family.

About the Book

Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich is the first release in an all new series from Barbour Publishing. The series will bring to life epic Bible adventures in a way to allow kids to imagine what they would be like.

September 16, 2017

Adventures in Menu Planning ~ Week 3

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links.  
Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

Week three of my 30 days of Adventures in Meal Planning and it's time for an update. Okay--so now we are more than half way in and I can confess something...

This experiment is going GREAT!

Seriously. I am just shocked at how low key this is! I thought it was going to be a big hairy ordeal and I would regret embarking on this experiment. But it has been so simple! I think the simplicity comes from the types of recipes I picked, and that I didn't micromanage breakfast and lunch. With keeping my focus on dinner, it has allowed me "freedom". So here is how this week's menu went...

September 13, 2017

Educational and FUN Children's Books by Carole P. Roman {Product Review}

Educational and FUN Children's Books by Carole P. Roman (a review)
The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

We are a literature loving family--especially when it comes to picture books. I love it when I can use picture books to help expand our homeschool studies. I recently reviewed several books by Carole P. Roman including If You Were Me and Lived in... the Middle AgesIf You Were Me and Lived on... MarsRocket-Bye, and One to Ten: Squirrel's Bad Day. Each of these is not only very colorful and kid friendly, but they are very informative and teach a lesson about something.

About Carole P. Roman books

The If You Were Me and Lived In...Historical and Cultural Series books are designed to take your family on a travel through time to visit the cultures and civilizations around the world and throughout history. The newest books in her series are designed to introduce students to

September 11, 2017

Exploring The Bears On Hemlock Mountain with Progeny Press {Curriculum Review}

The Bears On Hemlock Mountain E-Guide by Progeny Press {a Review}
We incorporate a lot of literature into our schooling, and I love it when I can introduce the boys to classic literature. I also appreciate it when I can find an online resource that helps me take our reading further with a literature guide. One of the best selling publishers for literature curriculum, is Progeny Press. I have already had the blessing to review two of their E-Guides (Miss Rumphius and Mr. Popper's Penguins) with my boys, and was happy to review the The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide with my youngest son.

About Progeny Press

Progeny Press is known for their high quality literature study guides throughout the homeschool world. Their mission statement makes it clear why--they want to help children think clearly, to understand literature, to turn to the scriptures for truth and values...and to enjoy doing it!

September 9, 2017

Adventures in Meal Planning ~ Week 1

Adventures in Meal Planning
Tada! It is officially the end of my first week of Adventures in Meal Planning as part of my four week trial period. If you have only just found me, you will probably need to go back read my first post (Adventures in...Meal Planning?D) to get an idea for the reason of this new experience. But anyways, here we are three days in. Thus far, things have been going well. But hey. It IS only one week in. (snort)

Here is recap of how the week went...
Monday night as planned, we did have the hamburgers--just that my mother-in-law made them and served them at her house.

Tuesday morning, I had pancakes on the docket for breakfast, and I am happy to say that we did enjoy Back to School Pancakes! I even remembered to set out the chicken for the Italian Chicken and Rice dinner I had on my menu for that night. We ended up serving this dish with sauteed squash and garlic toast. The recipe for the Italian Chicken was pretty good--but needed more seasonings the next time I make it. It was very reminiscent of Parmesan Chicken--but with a bed of rice instead of noodles.

Wednesday night Hamburger Stroganoff was planned, but I was called by my in-laws and asked to come join them for dinner again--they were trying out a new deep fryer. So that meal I had planned is pushed back to enjoy a day next week.

Thursday night was an open meal--and I got in the mood for soup! So I whipped up a batch of our favorite Vegetable Beef Barley soup, which gave us enough for several meals in the future. Yum!

Friday, I had already changed the menu from Chicken and Noodles to a requested Fried Chicken dinner. We were honoring my dad and husband that night--they shared a birthday earlier this week on the 5th. So since they have requested one of my specialties, I just swapped the menu chicken for chicken. I expect to move the Chicken and Noodles night to a night next week.

And tonight, we enjoyed a get together with church brethren for our annual fall spaghetti feed.

So as you can see everything worked out pretty much as I hoped! It wasn't much different from a normal week except I actually knew several days in advance what I was going to eat. I didn't buy anything extra for our meals this week, though I did borrow rice from my mother-in-law.

I do have a lot of leftovers. Which I think I'm going to freeze for future meals! So this may work out fantastic for me in future nights when I don't feel like making even what I have planned.

So that's the report on my first week. We will see how week #2 goes considering we will be 100% back into a full school schedule--which definitely affects what we eat during the week.

September 6, 2017

Exploring Creation With Marine Biology from Apologia {Curriculum Review}

Exploring Creation with Marine Biology from Apologia~ A review
The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate linksPlease see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

I love the ocean. It's my favorite place to vacation at. I really enjoy learning all I can about the ocean and the life it holds. Our favorite documentaries include the ones exploring our vast seas. I recently had the chance to review the newly revised Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage Set from Apologia Educational Ministries--and by I, that's what I mean! Because this a high school course, I chose to review this curriculum myself!

About Marine Biology from Apologia Educational Ministries

Apologia Educational Ministries is a best selling publishing company in the homeschooling world. They are especially well known for their amazing science curriculum which is written from an Intelligent Designer point of view. They offer a full line of elementary science options, as well as full credit lab science courses for the high school level. One of their most popular courses for the high school level--and newly revised!-is the Marine Biology course.

August 29, 2017

Exploring Apologia Astronomy with A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks {Product Review}

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks ~ Apologia Astronomy {product review}
We have been working to complete the Apologia 2nd Edition Astronomy curriculum before we dive into our official start of school next week. We are on our last chapter, so the end is near. Throughout the time we have been using the curriculum, I have had each boy using the student notebooks by Apologia that coordinate with the topic. But the boys were kind of getting bored with them by this point. When we were asked to review the A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks, and I discovered there were lapbooks to go with the Apologia Curriculum including a coordinating one Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy (2nd Edition) Lapbook, for our text we were almost finished with, I hoped it would be a low key way to wrap up our study--besides, we LOVE lapbooks!

About A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks is a company that is devoted to providing quality hands-on materials to bring more fun into the "mundane" when it comes to curriculum. This is done through their creation of lapbooks!

What are lapbooks?
Think of it as scrapbooking your way through a subject. When you are done, you can share your knowing through hands on records of information in the form of little mini-booklets--these can be done through, through drawing, dictating or writing! These mini-booklets are then attached (glue or tape) into file folders. Perfect to keep a record of the time spent learning a subject, and able to pull it out for referencing at any time in the future!

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks carries a WIDE variety of lapbook templates--from standalone lapbooks on popular subjects, to materials that coordinate with popular homeschooling publishing companies like Apologia, Classical Conversations, Diana Waring, Geography Matters and more!

One of the most popular series are the lapbooks which correspond with the best selling Apologia Young Explorers science curriculum.

We were given the Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy (2nd Edition) Lapbook (instant download) to work on with my two boys age 7 and 11.

Our Thoughts on the Product

We aren't strangers to lapbooks and are VERY aware of how much time and prep typically goes into getting one of these ready. One of the things that I appreciated right off the bat, was that there was never more than one mini-booklet per page for this lapbook AND I could print it all on white paper choosing color or b/w ink. For this particular review, I didn't use my colored file folders, as I have a COSTCO size box of the plain manila colored ones ready for use--even had three pre-folded and ready to use!

I appreciate that I can download this file and save it to a flash drive to keep out of my computer hard drive. It's also in pdf form so very easy to use. Now, as I said before, we were already nearly completed with the Astronomy course, so it was silly to start at the BEGINNING to use the lapbook. So instead, I used the lapbook pages that coordinated with the last two units of our astronomy book, beginning with Lesson 13.

The astronomy lapbook is very very large--requires 14 file folders--using about 1 per unit. The first page of the lapbook download simply gives you a list of materials and directions on how to put the lapbook together--specifically how to fold the file folders.

I skipped ahead to the unit we were on, and scanned the lapbook portion that went with it. I like to note what mini-booklets I can print in b/w and what would work best in color--this saves me ink! Next, I simply go to the printing!

In the past, we've always done SEPARATE lapbooks for each boy--but THIS time I decided to try out doing a collective lapbook with each boy being responsible for a mini-booklet. This not only spreads out the work, but keeps them from being overwhelmed with the cutting/writing.


I have a boy who loves making lapbooks, and one who does not like them--but BOTH were satisfied with turning this into a joint lapbook--each contributing his share.

Because we already owned and had been using the Apologia student notebooks that went with our Astronomy, I simply used them to SUPPLEMENT the lapbook. Doing the mini-booklets in the lapbook, over the lapbook elements included in the notebook. THIS WORKED PERFECTLY!

We have been able to simply continue our routine using the Astronomy course. The lapbook pages are clearly labelled at the top with the parts of the unit they coordinate with...for instance, Lesson 1 has a lapbook page that has this direction at the top:

Cut out this piece and hamburger fold on middle line. (There will be a tab sticking out. Do not cut off) Fold tab up and over to keep booklet closed. (Like a matchbook) Glue into folder. Read Think About This and Navigation, pages 17-18. Inside the booklet, explain about navigating with stars, a compass, and a GPS.

This tells me that the information for inside the mini-booklet are on pages 17-18 in the text under the sections labelled as directed. So I will read that to my boys and they will then use the mini-booklet to explain about navigating with stars, a compass, and a GPS as directed.

See? It's like a study guide too!

Using the lapbook pages as a guide, we completed 2-4 lapbook elements each of the days we worked on it. And because we created a joint lapbook, we completed it more quickly!

Supplies needed?
Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy 2nd Edition Text
File folders--colored or plain
Your printer w/color and b/w ink
Printer paper

That's it. Nothing weird or unusual.

Here are some photos of our completion of the TWO full lapbooks we have done so far--and we are in our third as of today.
Recording Star Classifications

Adding in the Dwarf Planet vs Planet Comparison

Lesson 14 Part 1 Lapbook almost completed

Cover of the Lesson 14 Part 1 Lapbook
When these are done, I will be able to store them easily for future reference if needed. If we had done the ENTIRE book with lapbooking, I would have 3-hole punched each folder and put them together in a binder to store.

I highly recommend this lapbook. It is available in instant download ($15)--which means no need for shelf space and print as you go. It is probably the MOST open and go lapbook I have ever done. I can say that because I have done a LOOOOOTTTTTT of lapbooks from many different companies. This one took the absolute least amount of time to complete. Period. The boys were able to cut everything themselves because there weren't weird shapes or thick paper. There was minimal coloring and not a lot of writing either. It worked perfectly in conjunction with the student notebooks we already had--and I would probably use them WITH the student notebooks for any further Apologia science. I feel they are each valuable and while you don't NEED to do both--yes you could do only this in place of the student notebooks, or only the student notebooks without this--I think they compliment each other perfectly.

The main con is that you need a reliable printer. And if you wanted one lapbook per student, you will be spending more on paper and ink than I did. By choosing to print some booklets in b/w instead of color, I was able to save some money.

I will take a moment to add that IF YOU WOULD RATHER HAVE IT ALL PRINTED ALREADY--there is an option from A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks to PURCHASE a printed copy of the lapbook for $35.00 (plus shipping). If you don't have a reliable printer or can't afford the paper/ink, this might be a good alternative for you.

Want To Know More About A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks?

Over the last several weeks, we have been using the Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy (2nd Edition) Lapbook from the collection of Apologia Curriculum lapbooks created by A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks. You have seen how we have used them, but there were several other lapbook topics reviewed by our homeschool review crew--including some that coordinate with Classical Conversations! I hope you will visit the anchor post to learn more about what A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks offer!
Lapbooks for Classical Conversations, Apologia, Inventors & 20th Century {A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Reviews}
You can find A Journey Through Learning on these social media platforms:
Facebook * Twitter (@AJTL_lapbooks) 
* Google+ * Instagram  

I am happy that this product worked well for us to finish our astronomy curriculum. It showed me that lapbooks work best for us when they do them as a team to share the work. Now we are eager to move on with our new science curriculum for 2017-2018!

August 27, 2017

Fresh From the Kitchen: Adventures in...Meal Planning?

I love. And I mean LOVE to cook. I would say that up to 90% of our weekly meals involve me cooking something. But, I don't menu plan. Nope. We just end up eating the same favorites it seems week after week...and honestly NO ONE COMPLAINS.

But I feel like I could be doing more. Because I have so many meals that I LOVE to eat, but only fix them like once a month--maybe! But to be more varied in our weekly meals would require...planning. And...I don't do menu planning. Like ever.


What if I tried?
What if I blogged about my adventures in meal planning?
Surely there are other people out there--stuck in a rut, but intimidated by all the fancy schmancy meal planning stuff who might enjoy reading about my own adventures?

I am a type B person. I actually LOVE flying by the seat of my pants and doing things last minute. I just do. And I do it well. (probably TOO well) BUT. I think that maybe I COULD pull of planning meals in advance, as long as I kept it from getting too complicated.

So, without further ado. Let me announce that starting THIS WEEK, I will be preparing to dive into meal planning for a ONE MONTH trial.
I will give it a go for 30 days.
Planning out a month of meals.
And then I will check in every week to let you know how it goes to keep myself accountable.

I must admit.
I'm nervous.
But I'm curious to know if I really COULD in fact do it.
I've always assumed I couldn't, knowing how much I hate being THAT organized. LOL

But you know, I was inspired by the menu planning portion in my newest and amazing recently acquired cookbook Everyday Cooking because HER monthly menu, includes CHEAT DAYS!! She added in pizza night, take out, even open spots for leftovers! It wasn't totally micromanaged to every meal for every day of the month with a new meal. And I thought to myself, "now THIS woman...she must be more my style." So I am going to give HER style of menu planning a try. I just restocked my supplies in the fridge and pantry with all my normal on hand ingredients. And that is my goal. I want to cook EXCLUSIVELY from things I ALWAYS have on hand. Real food. As much from scratch as possible. Keeping it as simple as possible.

So, are you ready to join me on this adventure?
Do you think I will be able to do it?!

Let's go!

ps. Make sure you follow me on my Farm Fresh Adventures Facebook page, because I think this new series will be perfect for videos!

August 25, 2017

He Will Be Your Guide {5 Minute Friday}

5 Minute Friday Series~ He Will Be Your Guide
Whew! After a busy week last week with the 5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop, it was nice to have a slower week of blogging. I have been busy canning my garden produce instead. That's a lot of work, but the reward of seeing your jars on the shelf makes it totally worth it! Today is Friday, and that means it's time for another edition of Five Minute Friday. This week, the word is GUIDE.

What is the definition of guide?
Well, as a noun there are four definitions:
1. a person who advises or shows the way to others
2. a thing that helps someone form an opinion or make a decision or calculation
3. a structure or marking that directs the motion or positioning of something
4. a soldier, vehicle, or ship whose movement determines the position of others

And then there is guide as a verb:
1. show or indicate the way
2. direct or have an influence on the course of action

Have you ever thought about how the God and His Son Jesus Christ fulfills all of these definitions?

God is our Guide--someone who advises and shows us the way. He is a guide who helps us form opinions and make decisions through His Word (the Bible) and Holy Spirit. His words to us through the Bible are a structure and marking that directs the motion we should be making. And He is a guide like a ship that should determine our movement as we follow Him. But let's not forget that He also GUIDES. His Son guides us by showing us the way we should go. He even calls Himself "the Way". And God directs and has an influence on the course of action this world takes.

Here are a few scriptures that reveal this to us:

Psalm 31:3
"For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me."

Psalm 32:8
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye."

Psalm 119:105
"Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path."

Isaiah 49:10
"They shall neither hunger nor thirst,
Neither heat nor sun shall strike them;
For He who has mercy on them will lead them,
Even by the springs of water He will guide them."

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

So this boils down to the question I have for you today...
Will you let God be the full definition of guide in your life?
Will you let Him BE the guide AND guide you?
He will Be Your Guide

I know how hard it is to let someone else take control, when I am so confident that MY WAY is best. It takes humility to allow God to be the Guide in your life, not battling Him for control. It takes a soft and willing heart to allow Him to guide is in the way we should go. I pray that I will allow Him to be MY guide and that I will seek after His guidance with my whole heart.


May you and yours be blessed today and as we enter another weekend.

August 22, 2017

Everyday Cooking~ A Cookbook for the Everyday Household {Product Review}

Everyday Cooking {Product Review}
I love to cook. I also love cookbooks, cooking magazines, and cooking shows. But what I DON'T like are the zillions of recipes in those that I would never make in my home. They are too fancy, take too much time, contain ingredients I don't have, or use "from the box" ingredients I choose not to keep in my pantry. I love the more "average Jane" recipes--wholesome and healthy--with ingredients I have readily on hand, few packaged ingredients, and easy to make! I was recently given the opportunity to review the Everyday Cooking cookbook from Everyday Homemaking. I hoped that it would be a cookbook to earn its place in my already stuffed cupboard by meeting the criteria that I have!

About Everyday Homemaking

Everyday Homemaking was created to offer practical ideas for busy families. Providing practical ideas and tools--including money and time saving tips, is what they are all about! The goal is help families have the opportunity to live our lives more abundantly as God intended.

Two of the primary products available include:

August 18, 2017

Dear Homeschool Mom ❤ {5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop}

Dear Homeschool Mom~ An open letter
Dear Homeschool Mom
(or whoever you are),
Hi. It's me, another overwhelmed homeschool parent. I am like you right now. Staring at another year in the trenches. Taking deep breaths. Trying to convince myself that I've got this. I've already knocked out six years, so I should be a pro now. 

Except I'm not.

August 17, 2017

How We Take the School Outside The Home {5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop}

Taking School Outside The Home {Back to School Blog Hop}
There is a myth among some in society that to homeschool means that you school at home. We keep inside our four walls, never to leave. We only stay among ourselves. No interaction with the world. No SOCIALIZATION beyond each other. THIS IS A LIE! Today, I want to talk about how our family, and many other families take school OUTSIDE of the home on a regular basis. By the end of this post, I hope you will see how ridiculous the idea of homeschoolers only interacting with each other truly is and how "socialized" homeschool children really can be. But also to encourage you as a homeschool parent (if you are one) to take advantage of our freedom to take school OUTSIDE the home!

When you were a child, did you only learn about how to do things and function in society and the world by going to school? Was that the only place that learning occurred for you? Did you learn how to cook there? What about how to drive? Finances? How to interact with others? What about taxes? Sports? Music? How to change a tire? What a bird sounds like? How to grow food? What a fort looked like? Did you only learn about the beach by reading or being taught about the beach? What about marine life? Animals on the African savanna? Was your learning confined to the four walls of a classroom?

Please tell me you said, "NO!"

August 16, 2017

Homeschool Planning and Record Keeping w/Free Printables {5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop}

One of the biggest questions that homeschool parents have for each other is “What curriculum works best for (insert age)?” The next question most common is “How do you plan out your year?” Followed by “what do you do for grades?” I have chatted all about picking curriculum in a previous post you can read here (Homeschool Curriculum Planning) and here (5 Mistakes I've Made With Curriculum), so let’s talk a little bit about planning curriculum lessons, and then recording WHAT we do—i.e. record keeping.

Lesson Planning

When it comes to lesson planning there are sooo many different styles and methods you can use. You really just need to find a way that fits you best. Ask yourself a few questions:

●Do I prefer paper/pencil style of planning or would I rather have it all digital?
●Do I want to see a year at a glance? Monthly assignments? Weekly?
●Do I want to be able to plan in detail all in one place, or just have a general idea of what is to be done?
●Do I want to see all my children’s lesson plans at one time?

Once you know the answers to these questions, it is a LOT easier to know what you are actually looking for in a lesson planner. Many curriculums provide you with suggested lesson plans. These are very helpful when determining how the curriculum will look spread over your year. You can simply then copy into your own planner what THEY suggest is done. Maybe tweaking it as needed. If you are a digital planner, you will have to set aside time to sit and enter in all the information into a program. It can be tedious, but having an email pop up with everything your children need to do for the day, may be just your style! Or clicking one button to shift everything around instead of having to erase.

Once you have decided HOW you want to do it, just start looking at different planners! There are MANY free downloadable ones available. Pinterest is full of links to them. Maybe you have a spiral binding machine, or a print shop that can put it all together for you? This might be the way to go to truly customize WHAT you want in a printed binder. Another option may be to look at pre-designed, printed, and bound homeschool planners. Places like Apologia and Mardel are two companies which publish best selling planners—they include a lot of sample pages for you to look at. I have reviewed the Apologia planner before—and I actually BOUGHT the Mardel "A Simple Plan" for me to use this year.

If you want to get an idea of some planners I myself have used before, here is a video I did dedicated TO talking about different planner ideas. I cover two digital ones, three paper ones, and two children planners.

I wrote another blog post about planning out your homeschool routine that you can read from last year which I think may be helpful too!


Now—states are different in regards to the homeschooling rules for how much recordkeeping needs to be done. You may live in a state with NO rules for homeschooling so you can basically just do whatever you want—keeping in mind the long term goal of transcripts for high school that will be transferable to college. I live in the next level of states—the ones with minimal rules. I have to do progress reports which follow the local school districts time frames, and a final report card—as well as attendance. The next two levels of homeschooling states increase the amount of record keeping required—so it’s very important you know WHAT is required for your state. I urge you to join HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) to stay on top of that.

So let’s get back to what my rules are for my state (Kentucky)—I need attendance, progress reports, and a report card. There are so many different ways to make progress reports! The local ones for the public schools usually include letter grading for grades 3+. The early elementary is still pretty much the pass/fail, excellent/satisfactory/needs work style. So what do I do? I use the grammar school style of excellent/satisfactory style. Why? Because this way I can do a clear assessment of progress throughout a year towards mastery. I like to see how work has improved as the year continues.

When it comes to end of the year reports, there are some subjects which DO have grades. But these are few, not the norm. And it is usually because of whatever type of curriculum I am using.

So how do I calculate the progress? Before I “grade” them, I make a clear list of my goals and expectations for the subject/curriculum. I include things like comprehension, neatness, completion of work, etc. This allows me to give realistic progress reports.

But what about Kindergarten? It’s so basic—how do you do a progress report?

I did a progression of things like:
*Writing their name
*Writing a sentence I dictated (The black cat sat by the dog.)
*Identifying colors/numbers/sight words/shapes
*Does he know his phone number or address?

With our progress reports those years, I did the SAME questions so that I could have visible documentation of their progress in these areas. Then I just made notes of the strengths and weaknesses’ they displayed. This is why you can easily just type out a progress report. Maybe even a page per topic/subject. Or just paragraphs for each one.

If want something a bit more “official” looking I have designed three different progress report pages for you. Feel free to print these out and use them as desired! One has the standard subjects already added; one has the subject area blank. The other allows for a more documented progress with room for paragraph writing.

Another big thing for record keeping is the attendance. Some planners have attendance sheets, while others do not. So, if you need a quick and easy sheet you can add wherever, I've got you covered!

I hope that these simple sheets will help you get started with your recordkeeping. One of the bonuses of having an account with is that it comes with a FREE subscription to AppleCore Recordkeeping. I use Applecore for creating my final report cards because I can quickly enter the subjects and have it spit out the "official" record. I can also enter my attendance into it for a quick calculation of my total days. If you get the PREMIUM subscription to Schoolhouseteachers, you also get the GOLD AppleCore subscription which even allows you to make transcripts! here is a video to learn more about AppleCore...

Remember, there is no extra cost for AppleCore Recordkeeping IF you have the inexpensive subscription to the super fabulous curriculum for K-12 website! There are also FREE printable planners available as a membership bonus!

Finally--when your year is over, and you are going through everything that your children created, be merciless! LOL! If you don't NEED to save all of their work--DON'T! It's not like taxes! Every year, I pick the best demonstration of how they have improved through the year--maybe an exemplary report, or paragraph they wrote. A few tests. A completed workbook. But here is the catch--if it doesn't fit in a manila envelope, it doesn't get saved! Each boy gets ONE manila envelope for me to keep their best work in. When I have it all together, I finish by sliding in their progress reports and report card. Then I label the front with the name and school year. Now it's EASY to store! I can put them in a file folder container and keep it in our loft.

Well I hope you have gotten an idea about how you can stay on top of planning and recordkeeping from our chat. I hope that at least one of the printables I have created will benefit you in some way!

There are 35 other bloggers doing the blog hop this week, so make sure you pop over to the Homeschool Review Crew to visit some other blogs this week! Join me tomorrow when I share ways that we take Homeschool OUTSIDE the Home for Day 4 of the 5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop for 2017! Have a simply marvelous evening!

August 15, 2017

My Top 10 School Supplies w/Free Checklist {5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop}

Top 10 School Supplies for Back to School w/Free Checklist
It's that time of year--the time when the stores send out one of the strongest lures ever--school supplies ads! One of my most favorite things to shop for is definitely school supplies. At a homeschool level, we just don't need as many as other students do, but there are still some must-haves that we find ourselves getting more of each year. Today, I'm going to touch on my Top 10 School Supplies for any homeschool--will your choices be on my list?

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When it comes to school supplies, there are some big must haves and some small must haves. Some of my must haves aren't even physical! But these still count as my Top 10 School Supplies for any homeschool classroom.

#1 Internet and Printer
Things have changed since our parents were in the homeschooling world (if they were). Today's homeschooling world includes a LOT of digital resources previously unavailable. There are digital copies of textbooks, online classes, printable curriculum, online educational games...the list goes on and on. I would have a MUCH harder time homeschooling if I did not have access to the internet and a good printer. We even upgraded our printer so it had a higher output AND did double sided printing. We are fortunate that even though we live in rural Kentucky, we still have a great high-speed internet!

#2 Books Books Books
Right on the heels of having internet, is having access to a WIDE selection of books. Homeschooling requires a lot of resource materials, and not being tied to the internet is nice. This is why I highly recommend that you collect some quality non-fiction materials for your personal reference library. I took advantage of a Usborne Book sale and stocked up on their fantastic encyclopedias. They are full color and internet-linked. Perfect for any homeschool classroom. I have one for history, science, geography, animals, and even math! We also collected all sorts of field guides for nature exploration. You can't go wrong with the National Audubon Society ones for your area. Don't forget some poetry and short story collections! I also have several young adult biographies. One of the main reasons I don't have a huge personal library is that I live just 5
minutes from an AMAZING library. It was recently redone, and with their renovation came a new "no fines" rule. Talk about making the homeschoolers happy! LOL. They also happily order any books that I can't find, and pull books on topics if I ask for them in advance. With the wide selection of young adult, children, and non-fiction available, there is rarely a book I need that they don't have. 

#3 Laminator
I cannot tell you how much I have used a laminator since we started homeschooling 6 years ago...but it is A LOT. Because so many things are printed out these days, I do like to protect them. Being able to laminate them is one way I can do that. You don't need anything fancy--just a simple one with a box of laminating sheets. You can make custom posters, flashcards, much! You can also turn pages into "dry erase" by laminating them. I wrote a whole post a couple years ago about how much I love my laminator. It really doesn't matter which one you have--you will enjoy having it available for you!

#4 Notebooks
Spiral notebooks and composition notebooks. I cannot have enough of these each year. I actually have shifted over to the composition notebooks, simply because there isn't a wire to get caught on anything nor can they unwind it! They are super cheap too--during the height of sales, you can get them for just 25 cents each! I rarely pay more than 50 cents each for them. We keep college ruled and wide ruled. Another style I also get is the primary version. This comes with primary lines and blank spots for illustrations. We use these for literature and science. I think each boy usually uses 3 per year. 

#5 Post-Its
What? Post Its are a must have? Yes, yes they are. I ESPECIALLY use the little ones because they fit in my planner day spaces. I also use them as bookmarks, and for extra notations on something the boys need to work on. I buy the COSTCO size packages. LOL. They really are a must have here though. 

#6 Index Cards
We use these for spelling words, vocabulary, bible verses, and anything else that might call for them. I also have laminated some and added magnets to them. Now they can be used over and over, and will stick to our cabinets or magnetic white board. I prefer the neon colors. :)

#7 Art Supplies
Now if you are only doing middle school/high school, this one might not be anywhere on your must have list. But with elementary ages, it really is. Even if I myself am not artsy, a LOT of our curriculum includes art projects. Already having the paper and paint and other supplies on hand saves me a LOT of time. 

#8 Coffee/Tea/Chocolate
Another major school supply is whatever YOU need to keep yourself going. For some it's a big mug of coffee in the morning. Others it's tea. Or chai. WHATEVER gets you going in the morning or gets you over the 2pm slump--IS A NECESSITY. So make sure you have plenty of it. 

#9 Flexibility
Remember when I said some things aren't tangible? This is one. I find that flexibility is totally a must have school supply for my classroom. I would be so overwhelmed (or at least MORE overwhelmed) if I didn't maintain a level of flexibility for what our routine looks like. This allows me to "go with the flow" on any given day. I included this in one of my Homeschooling Essential posts a few years back.

#10 God and His Word
For our family, it is IMPERATIVE that we incorporate God into every single school day. AND that He is a priority. We do not move forward in our day unless we pray and have Bible study. The few days that we have forgotten to do it...well those days were a bit pile of rottenness and attitudes. You will see on my curriculum post from yesterday that we do several things daily for bible. What isn't included on that list is that I pick curriculum that is Christian based, so God is woven throughout our day--whether it's history, science, or literature! I would not be able to fulfill my calling as a homeschooling parent unless I had God to help me. Even on the worst days, I know that "He's got my back." And it's no wonder that one of our classroom mottos is "With God All Things Are Possible!" (Matthew 19:26).

So there you have it. My Top 10 School Supplies for the homeschool classroom. What do you think? Do you agree? Are any of these must-haves on YOUR list? Share with me in the comments what you consider a must have school supply!

BEFORE YOU GO--I have created a super simple School Supplies Checklist that you can print off and take with you when you head in to buy supplies! I even left extra spaces for the things you need above and beyond the normal! Grab your FREE School Supplies Checklist!

Join me tomorrow as we explore Planning and Record Keeping for Day 3 of the 5 Days of Back to School Blog hop with the Homeschool Review Crew! Please make sure you visit some of the other bloggers participating this week. There are some AWESOME resources being shared--and I'm pretty sure there are even some freebies! Here are some blogs to get you started!

August 14, 2017

2nd and 6th Grade Curriculum Choices for 2017-2018 School Year (5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop)

Curriculum Choices for 2nd and 6th Grade
Welcome to the first day of our 2017 5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop! Today's topic is all about CURRICULUM! I can hardly believe I am saying this, but this year I will have a second grader and a...gulp...MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT! How did that happen? Sigh. These boys of mine. Just won't slow down! As I share our choices this year, I will make notes about why I picked each selection to briefly give you a clue as to why it works for us--or maybe why we are going to see if it will work. The main thing about my curriculum choices is that I reserve the right to THROW THEM OUT if at any time they no longer work for us. Don't forget that when you are making your OWN choices. These are a plan, but if the plan doesn't work, throw it out and try something else!

August 13, 2017

Introducing the 5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop!

I am so excited to announce that this week is going to be another fabulous blog hop series! Every day this week, members of the Homeschool Review Crew are all going to blogging on a common theme--allowing you a PLETHORA of resources to check out! And this year, our theme is one which EVERY homeschooling family can relate to--Back to School! Wait a minute...back to school? But we are homeschoolers! Yes we are, but just like any other family, we still start new school years and this blog hop we are going to talk about things relevant to gearing back up to start a new year of school!

Day 1: Curriculum for the 2017-2018 year
I have (finally) decided on what curriculum we will be using for 2nd and 6th grade this year. I will kick off the blog hop sharing what our year is going to include!

Day 2: School Supplies
Just like any classroom, homeschoolers do need some school supplies for their year. I will be sharing some of my must-have items for my own classroom. Will any of yours be on the list?

Day 3: Planning/Record Keeping
I have tried MANY different methods over the last 6 years. I will share my favorites (print and digital) as well as a video I recently made giving you a closeup look at what I will be using this year. I also will have some printables that you can snag to assist in your own record keeping.

Day 4: Outside the Home
This one threw me for a second...then I decided that I would share some ways that we homeschoolers take school--OUT of the home. Guess what? We don't actually live under a rock every day! In fact, you will see that we may be even busier than you think!

Day 5: Dear Homeschool Mom
I am going to end the week with a heart to heart from one homeschooling parent to another. Call it a pep talk for you and me about the upcoming year and our history with homeschooling so far.

So there you have it! The 5 Days of Back to School blog hop as it will look like on my blog. I hope you will visit many of the other bloggers over the week--I will try to share some of my favorites or ones that I think you might be interested in as the week goes on. These blog hops are always a highlight for me. I get just as much enjoyment out of reading my fellow bloggers blogs as I hope you do mine!